The SABC's Auckland Park headquarters.  Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
The SABC's Auckland Park headquarters. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

The Department of Communications has downplayed the absence of a permanent board at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), saying this has not had a material effect on operations of the broadcaster.

The SABC, which is in the throes of its worst financial crisis yet, is without a board after the term of the interim board expired in September. The absence of a board has raised fears that the broadcaster could sink deeper in the red. The auditor-general has warned about its going-concern status, noting it was commercially insolvent at the end of March.

The Treasury is considering a request for a R3bn guarantee.

At the helm of the SABC are acting executives. The broadcaster still has to appoint a permanent CEO, chief financial officer and chief operating officer.

Speculation is that President Jacob Zuma wants to gain control of SABC by delaying the announcement of a new board so that he and Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo can appoint their preferred candidates to the executive positions.

"There has been no material impact on operations…. The executives who are there have been doing a good job," said Department of Communications spokesman Mava Scott.

Dlodlo had handed over information from the South African Qualifications Authority to the Presidency and it was up to Zuma to sign off on the proposed board members, he said.

In September, Parliament drew up and adopted the 12 names of individuals to sit on the board. The list was submitted to Zuma, but he has yet to approve the proposed candidates, saying he wanted to ensure that they possessed the qualifications stated on their CVs, among other routine checks.

Hannes du Buisson, president of the Broadcasting, Electronic Media and Allied Workers Union, said that in the absence of a board, there was "no oversight at the SABC, there is no strategy and nothing is being implemented to address the financial crisis…. The delayed appointments have also created a lot of negative publicity which has put off a lot of advertisers….

"This means the SABC is losing a lot of money."

Media Monitoring Africa director William Bird said it was disgraceful that Zuma was dragging his feet in finalising the appointments, and it would plunge the public broadcaster deeper into crisis.

"He cannot sit on this decision, Parliament has spoken…. It defies logic and rationality… the only argument that can be made is that he is somehow using this as a negotiating tactic to get his own people appointed in senior executives positions at the SABC," Bird said.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

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